The star has criticised the show's production company for how they handled the situation
Black Mirror star Michaela Coel has said she was sexually assaulted while writing the award-winning Channel 4 series Chewing Gum.
The show ran for two series from 2015 to 2017 and followed Beyoncé-obsessed Tracey Gordon as she navigated religion, relationships, and more.
While giving the James McTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival earlier today (August 22), Coel told the audience about a night when she was working late at the production company’s office in London while writing the show’s second series.
“I had an episode due at 7am,” she explained, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby. I emerged into consciousness typing season two many hours later. I was lucky. I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers.”
Coel said the production company had switched “back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all.”
“When there are police involved and footage of people carrying your sleeping writer into dangerous places, when cuts are found, when there’s blood… what is your job?” she asked.
The production company paid for her to go to a private clinic for therapy. However, Coel discovered after she requested her script deadline be pushed back and the channel had to be informed of the reason why that the head of comedy had not been informed about the situation.
“Like any other experience I’ve found traumatic, it’s been therapeutic to write about it and actively twist a narrative of pain into one of hope and, even, humour,” she said. “And be able to share it with you as part of a fictional drama on television because I think transparency helps.”
Channel 4’s director of programmes, Ian Katz, responded to Coel’s lecture, saying: “Michaela’s MacTaggart is a powerful and important wake-up call. She has raised vital questions about opportunity, support, transparency, and inclusion that as an industry we must all address with urgency. The experiences she has described in her lecture are not what we would want for anyone working with Channel 4 or any part of our industry.”
He added: “She has opened an honest debate about how we ensure that writers and performers, whatever their backgrounds, feel respected and heard. We want an industry that truly celebrates difference and is accessible to all, so broadcasters and producers now need to work in partnership to act on the issues she has raised.”
The production company involved have not yet responded to Coel’s lecture.
It was announced today that Coel will write and star in a new BBC drama that looks at the issue of sexual consent and will explore “the distinction between liberation and exploitation.”